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F1: Pre-Season Testing General Observations

by on March 6, 2012

Without getting too in-depth, I wanted to offer a very general overview of some of the observations made during the pre-season tests.  Just a few notes on some of what I would consider the current Top 5, in no particular order.

Let’s start with the obvious.  Ferrari abandoned development half way through last season. Disappointed with its performance and unable to match the pace of the Red Bulls and McLarens, the team decided to throw it’s eggs in the 2012 season basket.  Only problem is, many of those eggs seem to have broken in the transfer.  We can think of many reasons why the team might struggle.  Some believe that Ferrari really never fully recovered from the loss of Jean Todt, Ross Brawn, Michael Schumacher and the rest of the dream team. The truth is, it SEEMS as though the team is not satisfied with the performance of the F2012, scrambling to find solutions and testing different exhaust configurations. This late in the game they are still running with the dreaded aero paint. To me this indicates that they aren’t certain of air flow…still.  The team has however, been able to put in a substantial amount of relatively trouble free miles.  Pat Fry, Alonso and Massa have all said there is still work to do.  They are setting expectations low by telling fans not to expect victory or even podiums immediately. Alonso however, has reminded us that we don’t know where everyone stands (in terms of pace) and not to count Ferrari out just yet.

The opposite sentiment seems to be flowing out of the Mercedes AMG camp.  The talk of podiums and possible victories and a tight championship is quite public.  Mercedes put in the most amount of miles, however, not all of which completed with their latest challenger.  Performance has been rather good as well as the silver arrows topped the time sheets more than once.  More to come from Mercedes with Schumacher and Rosberg at the wheel and Ross Brawn at the helm, coupled with Mercedes power and resources, makes this a dangerous threat.

All eyes were on Red Bull however.  Reigning champions always attract attention, especially when Adrian Newey pens the design.  The team did suffer some setbacks, stuck waiting for parts and also with some reliability issues, all of which were quickly dismissed by the team. The biggest surprise for me was the lack of laps run overall.  The car is clearly quick, setting decent times with ease regardless of tyre compound.  To be honest, I wasn’t surprised at all at their level of pantomime in Barcelona.  The team broke out the umbrella’s to cover up the car’s rear as though they were a jealous boyfriend covering up a girlfriend who had lost her bikini bottom climbing out of the pool.  It might have all been for show and to get teams worried, head games are all part of the “Newey Effect” it seems.

When no one was looking, McLaren designed the prettiest car on the grid for 2012.  After unveiling it, rivals are unable to look away. Perhaps wondering how they were able to pull off such a design and still satisfy the regulations.  We know that looks don’t win championships, so what’s the real scoop with the MP4-27?  Well, on the surface, it looks fast, not too hard on it’s tyres and quite balanced.  We also know it racked up quite a few testing miles.  This is a team not to be taken lightly.  With two great drivers behind the wheel, a very good development team and loads of great resources, many expect McLaren to be a serious contender.

Finally, to round out my top 5, I have to include Lotus.  Here is why; Not long ago, Lotus was Renault, while there have been some changes, a core group of solid engineers remain.  Renault has been a force in F1 for some time both as a team and engine supplier.  Let’s not forget who powers current champions Red Bull.  Lotus signed former F1 champ and flying Finn Kimi Raikkonen, who has come back and seemingly not lost a step.  Topping the time sheets more than once this pre-season, Lotus has also been fairly consistent. They did not put in as much time and mileage as some others due to a chassis issue with the front suspension mounts.  A difficult but prudent decision was made to abandon one round of tests and resolve the problems.  They did just that and came back strong.  Look to Lotus to be a spoiler.

Honourable mentions have to go to Williams, Force India and Sauber who also had their 15 seconds of fame at the top of the sheets at some point or another. 

Now after all is said in done, We have a rough idea that Red Bull & McLaren will most likely be leading a handful of very closely matched teams. We can only make this reasonable assumption about the pecking order…but we all know what they say when you ASS-U-ME….

Author: Ernie Black



From → Formula One

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